The Road Home

Visions of Then and Now

By Steve Carr

The drive from our cabin overlooking Palisades Reservoir to Idaho Falls in the westernmost corner of Bonneville County takes about an hour. The highway never leaves the county, the place of my birth, a place (a dot really on the globe) of about a hundred thousand souls.

The drive passes through Swan Valley and more or less follows the South Fork of the Snake River. Views of the canyon, a gorge carved through lava basalt over centuries, are pretty special. It’s home to cottonwoods, osprey, deer, elk, moose and more. It was once the home of the misunderstood, sometimes misanthropic genius of a western writer, Vardis Fisher. There’s hardly a more beautiful place.

U.S. Highway 26 veers from the river, bisecting Antelope Flats and its fields of wheat as it bears toward the county seat. Along that stretch, as the sun set in front of me, I recently saw my father—who had long since passed on.

Despite the visor, sunlight bathed the cab. My right hand held the wheel at twelve o’clock, providing me a long horizontal view ending at my curled fingers. The sight was hardly beautiful, so I looked back to the sunbathed wheat that extended beyond the thirty inches of arm before me. But I couldn’t help myself, and my eyes again left the happy scene and returned to my arm, in the same way we take that second closer examination of road-kill after first looking away.

Once upon a time, the hair on my arm was calm, blond, and uniform, but now a wayward mass resided there. Alien hairs, grotesquely coarse and interminably long, looked as if they were attempting to circumnavigate my forearm. Other corkscrew-shaped hairs bobbed back and forth from the window breeze, like parasitic sea worms swaying with the ocean tides. I shivered involuntarily with a sudden vision of my last snorkel experience and the many other creatures that lurked symbiotically with the sea worms tethered to the ocean floor.

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